Shalev’s third English translation (Esau, 1994) is set in post-WWII Palestine. Here, the author’s usual village legend-spinning turns out to be half stuffing and half roast goose. Illegitimate young Zayde Rabinovitch has three alleged fathers—and each contributes something or other to the boy’s physical appearance. Widower Moshe Rabinovitch, who was reared by his mother as a yellow-haired girl until he was 12 and nature could no longer be denied, provided Zayde with those blond tresses (and later with a farm); Jacob Sheinfeld, who once raised canaries—and who was abandoned by his beautiful wife Rebecca because of his infatuated pursuit of Zayde’s single mother, Judith—gave him droopy shoulders, a fine house richly furnished, and empty birdcages; and cattle-dealer Globerman, as coarse and sensual as Fyodor Karamazov, bestowed upon him huge feet and plenty of money. Zayde, who suffers under his name partly because it means “grandfather,” is born to Judith in her 11th year of living alone, her ex-soldier husband having deserted her and fled to America. Each of Zayde’s three would-be male progenitors declares himself to be the child’s actual father. The high point arrives with the appearance of an Italian ghost whose wondrous ability to imitate human forms, voices, and actions seems to be leading to a fulfilling end (which may reveal Zayde’s physical parentage) until a blow from the gods robs us of any resolution—any emerging from character, that is. The story, as retold to or by Zayde during the course of four meals from the hand of Jacob over three decades, gasps with incidental lore and pithy sayings, which may or may not fit the plot but which prick dash hopes that Shalev will ever come to grips with his tale. Even so, the village mythologizing and the proverbs (“He couldn’t say the names of wine, but his frying pan laughed and his knife danced in his hand—) will warm the hearts of many.

Pub Date: March 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-88001-635-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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